All Roads Lead to New Glarus Pt. 1- A Travel/Memoir Series


In honor of my mothers birthday i thought I’d tell a family story.
Happy Birthday mama !

My father once said, “All roads lead to New Glarus.” Throughout the years a small town in Southwestern Wisconsin seems to have repeated itself in significance. Our tapestry has been woven traveling through, in and around this lovely weekend getaway spot. The rolling hills and deeply cut valleys reminded the early Swiss settlers of their homeland.

I’ll never forget the first time I found myself in New Glarus, Wisconsin. It was a late August afternoon, and the air was starting to smell like newly sharpened pencils. Locusts played their organ-grinding songs, and all that grows grew golden. Thoughts of going back to school lurked in the back of my mind, causing me to capture each moment and savor it like a piece of creamy, milk chocolate melting slowly over my tongue. Every hour was precious freedom.

My family strolled down the main street of a town proclaiming to be “America’s Swiss Village.” With almost-black rough wood beams criss-crossing over white stucco, the buildings looked like they could have been in Glarus, Switzerland. Under the windows, geraniums spilled out of flower boxes. Passing a storefront with sausages hanging in the window, my nose crinkled trying to distinguish the fragrance of spice and uncooked red meat, an odor foreign to my young nose. Church bells broke into exultation, signaling that it was half past the hour.

New Glarus Photos
This photo of New Glarus is courtesy of TripAdvisor

As my father opened the door to the New Glarus Baking Company, the unfamiliar tunes of an accordion playing bouncy polka music blasted into the street. A shaft of light streamed down the staircase and beckoned us to follow it’s guidance to the pinnacle and into the tea room.

I sat on the smooth, wooden chair, my feet almost touching the ground. the side of the table at which I sat was against the wall, facing the window. My parents sat across from me. They were surrounded by the bright sunshine, which created halos around their forms like the paintings on Eastern Orthodox icons. The tables were adorned with white linen cloths and napkins and in the center of each one was a bud vase with a silk red carnation reaching towards the ceiling. The waitress came to take our order wearing a customary Swiss peasant dress. She looked like a member of the Van Trap Family.

New Glarus Images
This photo of New Glarus is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Soon after ordering, my father was drinking a cup of coffee. Mother was checking a glass for water spots. I, on the other hand, was about to dive into a biscuit with a creamy chicken gravy, topped with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream. My mouth watered. The sound of silver on china now accompanied the accordion as the velvety flavors exploded in my mouth.

Looking down on the last bite, I realized that just as I was about to enjoy the last of this delectable treat, I was also enjoying the last moment of my family vacation. Surprisingly, new notebooks, pens and shoes seemed like a welcome adventure after spending lazy days in the summer heat. I leaned back in my chair satisfied with my meal and with my fifth grade summer vacation.

To read the next installment of this story click here.

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34 thoughts on “All Roads Lead to New Glarus Pt. 1- A Travel/Memoir Series

  1. Thank you for sharing some of your childhood memories with us…I actually felt like i was at the table with you and your mom and dad eating those biscuits and gravy…

  2. Like the commenters above said, you’ve taken us there with you. Beautiful.

    I loved this sentiment particularly:
    It’s funny how we rarely know the future significance that a location can have as it weaves it way through the tapestry of our lives.

    About a decade ago, I set out on a one-day drive from Eugene, Oregon to Los Angeles. As we began the drive, I was excited for the week I’d soon spend in the sun. I had no idea that I’d be so enchanted by the place, I’d leave it vowing to return and make it my home. It started out as a vacation spot and quickly translated itself to “my future home.” It’s fun to recall the little decisions we make that end up coloring the rest of our lives.

  3. Thank you for the wonderfully descriptive post. I was transported to New Glarus for a short vacation and didn’t have to leave the house. What a treat!

  4. I’d say I went to New Glarus with you, but I’ve been there without ever crossing the Wisconsin border. There is a town here in Ohio called Sugarcreek, with a large Amish population in and around the town. While it is FAR more oriented to the tourist trade, you can find restaurants serving truly decadent meals with enough calories to keep an armoured division on the move! And the ice cream! (Great, now I’m hungry! 😉 ) It’s a bit outside our price range (as is most of life), but we do steal an occasional day there. Let me know if you ever get down this way. Free tours, from one Chicagoan to another!
    Beautiful descriptions, regardless.

      • Sure do. I also remember all the border “wars” because WI’s drinking age was 18 and IL’s was 21. Even came across a few checkpoints driving back from Road America in Elkhart Lake.
        Our running joke, borrowing heavily from TX, was “Wisconsin- It’s Like A Whole Other Country”. And compared to the idiotic driving in the northern suburbs, it felt like it!

  5. I enjoyed reading your memories of your fifth grade vacation. I love your descriptions, which satisfied all of my senses. I felt like I was really at the restaurant tasting those biscuits and gravy. Those were great biscuits. Oh, I almost forgot…I didn’t actually eat them 🙂

  6. Um… I hate to butt in with a non-relevant post, but I received a “new post” Email, for “An Elephant In The Room”, but the link to your blog doesn’t work.
    Sorry for the interruption!

  7. Pingback: Playing Pool, Pee Wee Herman and Tequila – Pt. 2 New Glarus Road | Journey Towards Epiphany

  8. Pingback: A New Point of View – New Glarus Pt 3 | Journey Towards Epiphany

  9. Pingback: Journey Towards Epiphany

  10. Pingback: Christmas in July – New Glarus pt. 5 | Journey Towards Epiphany

  11. Pingback: Obstacles in the Journey – New Glarus Pt. 4 | Journey Towards Epiphany

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